Previously unknown eruption revealed


A team of chemists from the U.S. and France examining ice-core samples have found large amounts of volcanic sulfuric acid — compelling evidence of a previously undocumented large volcanic eruption 200 years ago. The discovery helps explain why the decade from 1810 to 1819 is the coldest on record for the last 500 years.

The discovery was made after analyzing chemicals in ice samples from Antarctica and Greenland in the Arctic. The year-by-year accumulation of snow in the polar ice sheets serves as a record of what takes place in the atmosphere.

“We’ve never seen any evidence of this eruption before in the glacial record,” said Mark Thiemens, dean of the Division of Physical Sciences at UCSD and a co-author of the study. “But if you look at the size of the signal we found in the ice cores, it had to be huge ... bigger than the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, which killed hundreds of people and affected climate around the world.”

The discovery is published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Physics of cancer

The National Cancer Institute has awarded a $10 million, five-year grant to a new physics oncology center led by Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) scientists. The project brings together oncologists, pathologists, applied mathematicians and biomedical engineers at TSRI, Scripps Clinic, UCSD’s Moores Cancer Center and other universities for a first-of-its-kind study to track two types of cancer cells. They will study cells from patients with colon cancer, which characteristically shows a slow clinical progression, and those from patients with non-small cell lung cancer, a more aggressive form of cancer.

Until recently, technology was not available to make these types of observations about cancer cells without frequent patient biopsies. Advances now make it possible to analyze information from circulating tumor cells from simple blood samples collected from patients.

The funding comes from a National Cancer Institute initiative to create 12 physical sciences-oncology centers with the goal of understanding the physical laws and principles that shape and govern the emergence and behavior of cancer.

Marine ecologist honored

Professor Jeremy Jackson of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD has been awarded the Paleontological Society Medal, the highest honor given to paleontologists.

A leading coral reef scientist who has applied the lessons of historical marine ecology to help understand the complex range of ills facing today’s oceans, Jackson is a professor of oceanography and director of the Scripps Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation. His research examines the long-term ecological effects of overfishing on coastal ecosystems and the ecological and evolutionary consequences of the formation of the Isthmus of Panama, which divided the Pacific and Atlantic oceans about 3 million years ago.

Jackson was lauded as “(representing) the perfect alliance of paleontology and biology in the quest to answer important evolutionary and paleoecological questions.” Founded in 1908, the Paleontological Society is an international nonprofit organization devoted to the advancement of the science of paleontology.